August 2013 Archives

Magic in the Margins

Summer isn’t over yet, so here are a few books that capture the whimsical spirit of these final days of the season.  

Now Open the Box, by Dorothy Kunhardt; The New York Review of Children’s Books, $16.95, 72 pages, ages 4-7.

Before Clifford the Big Red Dog, there was little Peewee the circus dog. Originally published in 1934, Dorothy Kunhardt’s Now Open the Box tells the story of a beloved red canine and his opening act at the circus. 


Now Open the Box by Dorothy Kunhardt. Reproduced with permission from the New York Review of Children’s Books © Dorothy Kunhardt.   

To beckon spectators, the ringmaster stands in front of a large red tent while holding a yellow box that fits in the palm of his hand.  Inside is Peewee. Although the tiny pooch can’t perform a single trick, everybody loves the cute canine, from circus-goers to fellow performers. Unfortunately the dog begins to grow, and this threatens his place under the big top.

The New York Review of Children’s Books has just reissued this book by the author of Pat the Bunny. A torrent of words, coupled with bright illustrations and simple sentences lend a childlike, innocent quality to the storytelling.  Kunhardt’s iconic line-drawn illustrations employ a basic color scheme of fire engine red, canary yellow, black and white. 

At times, the story may seem lengthy and very young children might lose patience, but most readers will enjoy following Peewee on his adventure extravaganza. Kunhardt aficionados will surely want to add this edition to their collection.  

More magical reviews and great illustrations from Now Open the Box are here.

Serendipity has always played an important role in the lives of book collectors and scholars. One day Dr. Michael Walsh, a linguistics professor at the University of Sydney, was browsing through the stacks at Mitchell Library, Sydney, (part of the State Library of New South Wales) when he randomly pulled down an object that looked like a codex, but was actually a box containing two notebooks. After flipping through several pages of “doodles,” Walsh stopped at page seven, intriguingly entitled “A short vocabulary of the natives of Raffles Bay.” Walsh soon realized he had stumbled across a guide to a lost language from the aboriginal people settled near the coast in Australia’s Northern Territory.

The notebook, written by the Victorian colonist Charles Tyres, was entirely unknown to modern scholars.

Using that find as a launching pad, Walsh instigated a two year research project trolling through 14km worth of colonial manuscripts in search of mention of the lost or endangered indigenous languages of Australia.

The Australian government estimates that 145 aboriginal languages are still spoken around the country today, with a further 110 hovering at the edge of extinction. Walsh’s research project has contributed to the knowledge of 100 of these native languages. One of his favorite finds was a 130 page, tri-language dictionary in German, Diyari, and Wangkangurru, the later two being aboriginal languages from the north-east part of the South Australia state. 

The next step of Walsh’s research project is to disseminate the findings to the aboriginal people around Australia who still speak these languages, or are culturally descended from the native speakers. The Mitchell Library also hopes to digitize the findings, if granted the appropriate cultural approvals, making them accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.
905.1 NOLA Churches just front.jpgAt FB&C, we love to celebrate the successes of our writers, many of whom write for top newspapers and magazines and even books of their own. Today I’m happy to announce Deborah Burst’s debut in book form, Hallowed Halls of Greater New Orleans: Historic Churches, Cathedrals and Sanctuaries (History Press, $19.99). Filled with 45 beautiful photos, Burst’s book explores the rich history and culture of NOLA’s devotional spaces: From Belgian Monk Gregory de Wit in Saint Joseph’s Abbey to the history of Black Catholics at Blessed Sacrament - St. Joan of Arc church, to Philip Cazalé, who dedicated his life to building a network of 30 Romanesque Catholic churches and schools across south Louisiana. And the book contains a foreword by Anne Rice, whose own baroque childhood church, St. Alphonsus, is seen below.  

Burst, a New Orleans native herself, has been freelancing for us for years--her feature on a little library in Rugby, Tennessee, is in our current issue, and she’s also written about topics that range from post-Katrina library cleanup at Tulane University to vintage cocktail books. Both a photographer and a writer, she has published more than a thousand articles and has received nineteen writing and photography awards over the last nine years.

st Alphonsus from 2nd floor-2.jpgFor more information about her book, take a look at her website. Congrats, Deb!

Image credit: Deborah Burst.

News surfaced this weekend that posthumous works by the famously reclusive author J. D. Salinger will see publication between 2015 and 2020. In the upcoming biography of the writer, entitled Salinger, by David Shields and Shane Salerno, the authors claim that Salinger’s literary trust will release the five books with a yet-to-be-determined publisher. Salinger apparently approved of their publication before he died, at age 91, in 2010.

So, what’s on the way?  Quite the variety:

1) The Family Glass, an anthology of Glass family stories including several new ones.
2) A WWII novel inspired by Salinger’s difficult relationship with his first wife - a possible Gestapo spy.
3) A manual of the Hindu Vedanta religion to which Salinger was devoted in the second half of his life.
4) A novella based on Salinger’s experiences as a counterintelligence officer in WWII.
5) A Caulfield anthology, including a reworked “The Last and Best of the Peter Pans.”

And so, in the span of a few years, Salinger collectors will more than double the amount of books in their collection. Salinger only published four books in his lifetime, The Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, and Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters.  

After managing to afford a first edition, first printing of The Catcher in the Rye, (roughly a $20,000 feat), the Salinger collector must spend most of his time tracking down copies of the magazines Salinger first published his stories in.  This blog post at Magazine History offers an excellent overview of the various magazines that published Salinger stories, including his first, “The Young Folks,” published by Story magazine in 1940.
Neil Gaiman in Conversation with Philip Pullman

Guest Blog by Catherine Batac Walder

On Wednesday, August 21, I listened to Neil Gaiman’s conversation with Philip Pullman at the Oxford Playhouse in Beaumont Street. Gaiman’s visit is part of a signing tour of his new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but it felt like an hour and a half of eavesdropping on two grown men talking about the books they loved as children, favorite characters, comics, and finally, story ideas from nightmares. I could think of other magnificent buildings more suitable as a setting to this dreamlike night, but then again, the playhouse also seemed like a gateway to literary Oxford. Just around the corner is The Eagle and Child pub (meeting place of Tolkien, Lewis, and other members of the Inklings) and a couple of doors down is the Randolph Hotel, which featured in the Inspector Morse TV series based on the novels by Colin Dexter (they now have a Morse Bar).

Gaiman and Pullman.JPGI had attended two talks of Pullman’s in the past, and they both had a serious tone. In this third one, as soon as he started the chat with the comment that the last time he saw Neil Gaiman was about a year ago and “he was dressed as and made up as a badger,” I knew that the night was going to be like reading one of their fantastical stories. Gaiman talked about reading the Mary Poppins books when he was six or seven and how they helped form whatever worldview he had as a kid. “The idea that the world is incredibly unlikely and strange secret things are always happening, that adults don’t really explain to you, or in fact, that adults may be oblivious to,” he said. Of The Wind in the Willows (the book that prompted him to dress up like a badger), he said, “It was just weird, and I think it was the kind of thing that I like ‘cause it’s also the kind of thing I’ll do when I’m writing - throw everything in. That certain point when you look around and you go, artistic unity may say that this armchair should not be in the novel but it’s my novel.” His wonder was infectious as he recalled discovering the library when he was very young and having that incredible feeling of power; discovering the card catalogue in which you could actually look up subjects like witches or robots or ghosts; or you could just take down books and read the interesting ones. Both authors talked about discovering American comic books and marveled at the speed in the stories, the size of them, with Gaiman adding, “Everything was alien, everything was equally as strange and unlikely, so skyscrapers, and pizza and fire hydrants were just as alien to my world as people in capes flying around.”

What struck me the most about this conversation was how authors influence the public to read other authors--sharing their literary wealth. Gaiman mentioned how A.A. Milne wrote about Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1908) in an essay in the 1920s and became a one-man campaign to give the book the fame he felt it deserved, and one of the things he did was extract the adventures of Mr. Toad and adapt them to stage. In a way, Gaiman did the same for one of his favorite books, James Thurber’s The 13 Clocks, reintroducing it to readers via the 2008 New York Review of Books edition.

Nel Gaiman 1.JPGAt the book signing afterwards (which lasted for hours), I told Gaiman that it was great to finally meet him and mentioned that he started the Philippine Graphic/Fiction awards in my home country the same year I left. “You missed me,” he said. Having been introduced to the rich Philippine mythology and contemporary urban legends, Gaiman established and funded the competition that ran for three years, and at that point in time, it was something he had never done anywhere else. I asked him to dedicate my copy of Blueberry Girl to my daughter and, as our family is also a huge fan of The Wind in the Willows, requested that he doodle a badger for the little one.

Badger doodle.JPGKnown as an author who has always tried to connect to fans, Gaiman is currently touring Scotland to promote his new book, but he has revealed that this current journey across Canada, Europe, and the U.S. will mark his last book-signing tour. If you live in the UK, you can pre-order his upcoming children’s book Fortunately, the milk from Bloomsbury UK and have a chance to get a signed bookplate.

Many thanks to Catherine Batac Walder, a freelance writer living in the UK, for this report. She has previously written for us about Sherlock Holmes, ex-library books, and the Oxford Literary Festival. Images credit/copyright: Catherine Batac Walder.
And now, for your viewing pleasure, the just-released trailer of The Book Thief, based on the 2006 novel by Markus Zusak. Set in Germany during World War II, it is the story of an orphan who loves books--even stealing them--and then shares them with the Jewish man hidden in foster parents’ basement. The film releases in theaters this November.

Soccer to us - “football” to the rest of the world - is the most widely played sport on the globe, employing thousands of people, inspiring millions of fans, and generating billions of dollars in revenue. In many countries, including England, football is akin to religion in terms of the devotion and passion it inspires in its followers.  Perhaps it’s only fitting then, that the centerpiece of the British Library’s new exhibition on football is a book of handwritten rules from 1863 defining the modern conception of the game. Yes, the 13 Original Rules of Football currently has a place beside the Magna Carta.

BL-Football-small.jpgThe handwritten book, entitled the 1863 Football Association Minute Book, was compiled by Ebenezer Cobb Morley (no joke) as he attended a series of meetings of the Football Association.  The organization formed in 1863 to set ground rules for the new sport, meeting in the Freemasons’ Tavern in London. Morley’s book contains the thirteen original rules of football along with the minutes of the Football Association meetings from that year.

In short, this little book is where it all began. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that the book was recently included in Melvyn Bragg’s Twelve Books that Changed the World.

The price of the 1863 Football Association Minute Book on the open market is staggering to think of. Its current assessed value is £2.5 million, however I have a sneaking suspicion it would go for much higher at auction. It is, after all, the only copy of a exceedingly influential document.  But as the current chairman of the Football Association, Greg Dyke, said to the British press, that £2.5m “”would be a lot of money in most worlds but wouldn’t buy you a decent full back in football.”

So there you go.

Image: Courtesy of the British Library.
Many booksellers are setting up today for the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show. Held at the Baltimore Convention Center, the four-day event boasts more than 575 international art and antiques dealers, including a 90-dealer antiquarian book fair within the larger show. It opens tomorrow.

LuxMentis.jpegIan Kahn of Lux Mentis in Maine has packed a few hundred miniature books--trade editions, limited editions, and artist’s books--as well as this lovely Anthony Hecht/Leonard Baskin production, The Gehenna Florilegium (Leeds: Gehenna Press, 1998), in a full peach leather binding.

Mallory.jpgGeorgia-based bookseller Kenneth Mallory believes this framed 1953 Marcel Duchamp lithograph of a Dada catalogue printed “in blocks of contrasting type running diagonally down the sheet,” will have crossover appeal in Baltimore.

Additionally, we are told by the Antiques Show organizers, First Folio of Tennessee will bring a deluxe edition of The Rhinegold & The Valkyrie, illustrated by Arthur Rackham (1910), and Roy Young, Bookseller, of Ardsley, New York, plans to show a first edition of Metropolitan Opera Fine Art, a 1978 collection of graphic works by contemporary artists interpreting opera.  

One of our finest crime writers passed away early this morning.  Elmore Leonard, author of “Get Shorty,” “Out of Sight,” and “Rum Punch” died from complications following a stroke he suffered in July. An announcement on his official website read “Elmore passed away this morning at 7:15 AM at home surrounded by his loving family.”

Leonard authored 45 novels in his lifetime.  After his start writing short stories for Western pulp magazines, he graduated to novels with the 1953 publication of “The Bounty Hunters.”  Leonard continued to write Westerns for several years before moving on to crime fiction. Dubbed the “Dickens of Detroit,” Leonard frequently wrote about his home city in Michigan.  He was widely praised by critics and readers for his strong dialogue, gritty sense of realism, and brevity.  Several of his novels and stories were adapted into Hollywood hits, including “Out of Sight,” “Get Shorty,” “3:10 to Yuma,” “The Big Bounce” and “Rum Punch,” which was transformed into “Jackie Brown” by Quentin Tarantino.


Leonard was also famous amongst writers for his 10 Rules of Writing, which include such gems as “If it sounds like writing, I re-write it,” and “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

I’ve been a big fan of Elmore Leonard ever since my Dad gave me a copy of Leonard’s great Western vengeance novel “Valdez is Coming.”

For collectors, building a Leonard collection is still an affordable undertaking.  Copies of Leonard’s first novel, “The Bounty Hunters,” published in paperback format in 1953 by Ballantine Books, will set you back about $50.

bounty hunters.jpg

Lot163.jpg One of two golf-related fore-edge paintings at auction this week. This one is by Martin Frost, “recently drawn but in an early/classic style,” of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship of 1898. It appears in/on Golf: Badminton Library by Horace Hutchinson. London: Longmans, Green & Co. 1890. The estimate is $800-1,000.

An exhaustive collection of rare golf books and memorabilia goes to auction on Thursday at PBA Galleries in San Francisco. The collection of Dr. Robert Weisgerber, with additions, runs to 598 lots of golf books, art, and objects. In addition to some high spots of golf book collecting--Macdonald’s Scotland’s Gift, Mackenzie’s Golf Architecture, Horace Hutchinson’s Golf,--the collection contains magazines, club histories, tournament programs, autographs, photographs, posters, scorecards, even a few clubs. A long run of Golf: A Weekly Record of “Ye Royal and Ancient Game” has by far the highest estimate at $20,000-30,000. But I found the fore-edge paintings quaint.

Lot164.jpg The second of two golf-related fore-edge paintings. This unattributed painting shows a woman golfer putting, with a male golfer observing. It appears in/on a 1904 edition Sir Walter Scott’s Poetical Works. London: Henry Frowde. The estimate is $400-600.

PBA is known for specialist golf book sales, and we’ve covered several in the past few years. For more golf books at auction, go here, here, and here.
Barbara Cartland completists - if there are any out there - can rejoice: the 160 novels she left unpublished on her death in 2000 will soon be released by her estate as the Barbara Cartland Pink Collection. The estate will publish a new title each month, available to readers on a subscription plan or as individual purchases.

Cartland was a famous British gossip columnist, socialite, and - most notably - an enormously prolific romance author.  She wrote 723 novels in her lifetime -- yes, 723 novels -- and sold, by some estimates, over 1 billion copies of her works.  She holds the Guinness Book of World Records for most novels written in a year (23 in 1983), and at any given point was either the top selling author in the world or in contention for that designation.  

All this despite the fact that most people you know don’t own a copy of her book.

I wonder if there are any Barbara Cartland collectors out there.  I’d love to just see a photo of all 723 novels together in a library. I’m always fascinated when people collect in a disposable arena.  (And I mean that nicely). Romance novels are often discarded by their owners as they are intended by publishers to be read quickly and then left behind for something new.  It’s always interesting when someone invests the time and energy (and money) into collecting these often overlooked areas.

A complete Cartland collection, however, would be very difficult to form now -- titles are quite scarce on the ground.  A search on abebooks for any Cartland titles published between 1922 and 1930 (the first eight years of her career) only produced a single listing from a British bookseller for a lot of four signed copies of her early novels.  The price: just under 2k.

(Image from Wikipedia)
abc-paperbackcover-500-1.jpgRichard Minsky’s book, The Art of American Book Covers, 1875-1930, is now available in a Smyth-sewn paperback from George Braziller, with, Minsky writes in his blog, “the same high quality paper and printing as the two sold-out hardcover editions.” Obviously, it also has the same fantastic inside, which I reviewed back in April 2010. The Art of American Book Covers was the 2011 Worldwide Books Award for Publications from the Art Libraries Society of North America.

Last week we reported on the export ban placed on Jane Austen’s ring, purchased at auction by the American pop star Kelly Clarkson. As a condition of the temporary ban, if a British individual or institution raises enough money to match the winning bid of £152,450, the ring will stay in the country. The Jane Austen House Museum quickly began a funding campaign to keep the simple, but elegant ring in Britain. The museum received a huge boost to its campaign last weekend when an anonymous donor contributed £100,000 to the effort.

The Museum has now raised £103,200, with £49,000 left to go.  Their efforts, however, are already sufficient to secure an extension on the temporary export ban from September 30th to December 30th, giving them some more time to raise the capital.

The Museum was interested in the ring before it went to auction in 2012, however it was unable to raise enough money to be a serious competitor at the sale.

The museum formally invited Clarkson to visit the ring in Hampshire once its purchase is secured.  The museum manager, Louise West, said to the The Guardian, “We were very excited that someone like Kelly Clarkson was a fan of Jane Austen - it’s not what you’d expect from a young, cool US pop singer. It says a lot about Austen’s popularity and who she’s popular with. It’s not just middle-aged women.”

Clarkson has yet to issue a public statement on the situation.

Prompted by a question raised at Rare Book School a couple of weeks ago, I blogged about what might be the first American bookplate. Since then, some further ideas and opinions give reason for reconsideration.

Lew Jaffe, who runs Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie, commented: “The question is simple enough but the answer is more complicated...Once you start delving into early 18th century American bookplates you are probably dealing with Anglo-American plates from the libraries of royal governors and large land holders like Lord Baltimore. Most of the bookplates were not dated so I suspect your quest is a major research project.”

David Szewczyk of Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts Co. gently chastised me for the Anglo-centric use of the word “American.” He wrote, “Libraries, both institutional and private, existed in Spanish America more than 100 years before they did in the English colonies. The earliest bookplates for Mexico, as far as we know (but much research is still needed) are in books that belonged the Jesuit establishments and were a woodcut stamp on pieces of paper that were affixed to pastedowns and other blank areas. Other times the stamp was simply used as a stamp. These date from as early as the 1580s.”

And, Steve Ferguson, the curator of rare books at Princeton, sent me a PDF of a 1949 article in The New Colophon called “A Seventeenth Century Book-Label Problem,” in which Edward Naumburg Jr. makes the claim that Steven Day’s printed book label bearing his own name is not, in fact, the earliest American book label. He reveals several reasons why he believes this to be the case; mainly, it seems, because the fleur-de-lis type ornament used was “not found until 1693 in America, but prevalent in England at the time of his label.” Instead, Naumberg writes, “the earliest authentic dated American book-label, printed by Samuel Green on Steven Day’s press at Cambridge” is that of Samuel Phillips May 31 1652 (twelve years after the Bay Psalm Book). It looks like this:

Screen Shot 2013-08-11 at 9.17.19 PM.pngThanks to those above for contributing to this conversation. Further comments and additions welcomed! 

Books on the Beach

MARTHA’S VINEYARD (August 3-4, 2013)  -

            Every other summer, authors from across the globe descend on Martha’s Vineyard for a whirlwind weekend of signings, presentations and bookish discussions. This year’s event drew writers including Pulitzer-Prize winner Tony Horwitz, notable nonfiction writer (and Smith College alumna) J. Courtney Sullivan, Tom Reiss, (another Pulitzer winner) and other literary luminaries. 


photo credit: William Lazarus

            The festival was held at two island locations this year - Saturday’s events took place at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown, and tents welcomed festival-goers at the Chilmark Community Center on Sunday.   The Harbor View hosted a series of moderator-led panels where topics such as the future of journalism, gangsters, and matrimonial fiction were discussed.  All authors were available at both locations to greet fans and sign books. 

            The humidity that notoriously plagues the island during warmer months was happily absent for the weekend, and temperatures in the seventies made browing stalls and chatting with authors a pleasant experience. 

When Leslie Klinger was preparing an anthology of Sherlock Holmes stories written by modern day authors (In the Company of Sherlock Holmes), he received a letter in the mail from the Arthur Conan Doyle estate demanding a hefty licensing fee. Klinger is a well-known Holmes expert, author of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes and consultant on the recent Holmes films.  Only ten of the sixty Sherlock Holmes stories remain under copyright in the United States.  Klinger felt that the fifty public domain stories establish the defining story and character elements, thus freeing up the characters to be used in fiction today. So Klinger took the Conan Doyle estate to federal court last February in Illinois, asking the court to affirm the public domain status of Conan Doyle’s work in the United States and revoking the right of the estate to collect the licensing fee.

The strange part is that no one from the estate showed up on the court date. By default, the court ruled in favor of Klinger.

Now Klinger is demanding that a judgement be rendered to prevent the Conan Doyle estate from collecting any further licensing fees for the Sherlock characters. The estate had just recently licensed the Sherlock Holmes films and television shows in the United States -- and presumably made a small fortune in the progress.  But no response has been issued from the heirs to Klinger’s new demands. Why are they not fighting Klinger in court?  If Klinger wins a second time, the estate would be deprived of all future character licensing rights in the United States. That’s a lot of money to give up.

Perhaps the Conan Doyle estate feels they don’t have the appropriate legal ground to carry out the fight.  If so, the estate has been coasting on a bluff -- a bluff that Klinger has now called out and stands poised to win upon.

LOC-Carte.jpgYesterday the New York Times Opinionator ran a piece called The Cartes de Visite Craze by Andrea L. Volpe. In it, Volpe looks at images of the Civil War through the commercial photography available at the time: 2 1/2-by-4-inch portraits known as cartes de visite. She writes: “The images were so popular the press called it ‘cartomania.’ The first photo albums were created to hold them. Engraved copies, based on widely circulating carte portraits of politician and generals, illustrated the pages of magazines like Frank Leslie’s and Harper’s Weekly. Cartes de visite of the ‘near and dear’ and the ‘great and good’ literally and figuratively allowed Northern viewers to picture themselves as part of the nation. The public’s abstract connection to the Union was made material by collecting images of the nation’s leaders side by side with family portraits.”

Coincidentally, Volpe, who is finishing a book titled National Bodies: Cartes de Visite and the Politics of Photography in Civil War America, wrote an article for us just last month on Walker Evans’ photography and book jacket design.

Image: Carte de visite of Steward Beach, full-length studio portrait. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.


The debate over export of cultural property resumed this past weekend when news broke that the United Kingdom’s culture minister, Ed Vaizey, issued a temporary ban on the export of Jane Austen’s ring, won last year at auction by the American singer Kelly Clarkson. The ban means that while Clarkson is not technically required to sell the ring, she may not take it out of the UK. (She can, however, temporarily content herself with the removal of the first edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion from 1818 that she bought for £4,000. Who knew Clarkson was an Austen collector?)

                                                                                                                                             Clarkson, who won the “American Idol” competition in 2002 and went on to a very successful career as a pop star, purchased the Austen ring for over £152,450 at a Sotheby’s auction in London last July. (Note: the sales price was more than five times Sotheby’s estimate). The simple gold ring set with turquoise is one of three surviving pieces of Austen’s jewelry.
                                                                                                                                                    Vaizey said in a public statement, “Jane Austen’s modest lifestyle and early death [at age 41] mean that objects associated with her of any kind are extremely rare. So I hope that a UK buyer comes forward so this simple but elegant ring can be saved for the nation.”
                                                                                                                                                       Vaizey’s temporary export ban will extend to September 30, with the possibility of a further extension to the end of the year if there is a proof of a serious attempt by a collector or institution to raise the appropriate funds to buy the ring. If purchased by a private collector, the ring must be leant to a public institution for exhibition 100 days out of each year.
                                                                                                                                               What do you think? Is Austen’s ring of significant cultural value? Would it be a loss to the nation?
When someone asks a crowd, ‘how many of you know Aldus Manutius?’ and nearly every hand pops up, you know you’re in the right place. And by right place, I mean you are among your book-loving peers--the librarians, archivists, booksellers, collectors, professors, students, conservators, and the rest of us who are interested in studying the culture and history of the book. That question was posed by collector G. Scott Clemons during last Wednesday night’s Rare Book School Forum at the Small Special Collections Library. Clemons--who was here not only as a guest speaker but as a student in the descriptive bibliography course--gave a rousing and convincing talk on “How Aldus Manutius Saved Western Civilization,” discussing how the printer’s “portable books” at the turn of the sixteenth century preserved Greek classics that might otherwise have disappeared.

That was one highlight of my week at Rare Book School. But there are others. It feels impossible to cram a thoughtful synopsis into a blog post, and yet, I’ll try. First and foremost, a few words on the course I took: Provenance: Tracing Owners and Collections with David Pearson. Each day from 8:30-5:00, we studied the rudiments of palaeography, bookplates, personalized bindings, heraldry, and other forms of ownership marking. Several sessions allowed us the opportunity for hands-on exercises with sixteenth-, seventeenth-, and eighteenth-century books from the Rare Book School collections and the Small special collections. I believe there was a unanimous feeling among my classmates that this course is particularly wonderful in scope and content, and that David Pearson, director of culture, heritage, and libraries at the City of London Corporation and most recently the author of Books as History, is a thoroughly engaging teacher. 

Booksellers’ night on Thursday was a fun event, so nicely arranged by RBS staff and local booksellers. I visited four shops, and I purchased four books, all very good reading copies of modern books that had either been on my long mental list of books to buy someday or books that I had not heard of; pleasant surprises, in any case. Umberto Eco’s book-length essay, Postscript to The Name of the Rose, is one such treasure, mined at Heartwood Used and Antiquarian Books.

I was glad to meet so many book world colleagues, some of whom I had previously connected with by email or social media, and some of whom were entirely new, friendly faces.

Having not attended RBS since 2004, I was surprised by some additions -- including great new spaces -- and awed by the precision of the weekly schedule. It’s clear that much thought and effort go into planning every RBS session, and the staff is phenomenal. I can’t say enough good things about my week at RBS, so I will leave it at this: if you have never been, make your plans for next year. You will not regret it.  
The good folks at Peter Harrington have produced a short video to help book collectors identify modern first editions. Take a look:


How to Identify First Editions from Peter Harrington on Vimeo.


J. K. Rowling announced yesterday that the royalties from her novel “The Cuckoo’s Calling” - written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith - will be donated to The Soldiers’ Charity for a period of three years.  Rowling also accepted a “substantial” donation to the same charity in lieu of damages from the law firm that revealed her identity without her approval.

Rowling said in a public statement, “This donation is being made to The Soldiers’ Charity partly as a thank you to the Army people who helped me with research, but also because writing a hero who is a veteran has given me an even greater appreciation and understanding of exactly how much this charity does for ex-servicemen and their families, and how much that support is needed.”

“I always intended to give The Soldiers’ Charity a donation out of Robert’s royalties but I had not anticipated him making the bestseller list a mere three months after publication - indeed, I had not counted on him ever being there! “

“The Cuckoo’s Calling” is a whodunit with a war-veteran-turned-private-investigator as its protagonist. It received positive reviews upon its release and garnered modest sales.  Once Rowling was revealed as the true author, however, sales shot through the roof, expiring the first printing overnight and catapulting “The Cuckoo’s Calling” to number one on Amazon’s bestseller lists. (For Rowling collectors out there, the first printing is estimated at 1500 copies).

Rowling added in her statement: “I was yearning to go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new genre, to work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback. It was a fantastic experience and I only wish it could have gone on a little longer.”

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